The Strange History of Kerguelen Colony :

This was stimulated by metalinvader665's remarkable TL idea 'Colonisation of Kerguelen Islands?' which I did a subthread inside, going up to the 1945 surrender of Japan. I have come to the conclusion that I must write a modified version of this, examining a Svalbard/Spitsbergen situation for the Colony before the Great War. What will happen is unclear, at present, but we will start with seals, whales and a POD in 1776 with Cook and Banks, four years after the official discovery by the French explorer Yves Joseph de Kerguelen de Tremarec... Start the attack!
 
Background History of Kerguelen Crown Territory:


The key event was the 1776 visit of Captain Cook and his scientific colleague, Joseph Banks, accepted at the last minute by the Admiralty, as Banks wished to investigate Antarctic species. The voyage was marked by the first visit of a British ship to the island later investigated by Ross, but the volcanic Mount Banks [Erebus] marks the event. Banks and Cook advised the Admiralty that Kerguelen was strategically upwind of Australia and that the Van Diemen's Land and Port Sidney settlements could only succeed if the French were excluded from holding the Kerguelen Islands by a British base at Port Resolution (Port-aux-Francais). They also most strongly recommended that an effort be made to establish a settlement 'to support the local fishery of whales, seals and other marine resources', as whaling and sealing were the two principle commercial activities in that area.

The 'other marine resources' became remarkably significant, when Royal Society correspondents in the Channel Islands and Bantry Bay in Ireland reported on the use of seaweed as a fertiliser for potatoes and a fodder for livestock. Irish, Hebridean Scots and other hardy settlers, were encouraged to voyage to Kerguelen at Government expense, to set up fishing and farming communities in an area that resembled St. Kilda off the Hebrides. The collection of sea birds and their eggs, the use of edible seaweeds, the growth of limited crops of potatoes and vegetables, were augmented by work and supply of sealers, whalers and Navy vessels, but it was a harsh existence. The Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties allowed a fast ocean passage from Capetown to Australia and New Zealand, ships watering at Port Resolution, but unable to obtain timber for repairs from local sources, so the community resembled the peat-fuelled and poverty-stricken parts of the Hebrides and Western Ireland. The local seal and whale population was also unable to sustain the depredations of British, French, Norwegian and American ships, commercial whaling moving west to South Georgia and to South Africa, leaving Kerguelen with a precarious existence and government neglect.

France was unwilling to give in to British demands that it abandon Kerguelen, using fishing and the discovery of some lignite (brown coal) as its excuse; the lignite deposits were on Presque'Il Ronarc'h, an almost-island that the British called Ronarch Island, in a straight Anglicisation of the mainly French-origin names. The French use of convicts to mine the lignite seemed to border on slavery, so it caused a lot of bad feeling between the French and Anglo-Scots settlers. This was to have serious repercussions for the French in later years.

As indicated, the lack of forests and good coal were the death-knell of the local shipping support industry, for with the annihilation of the local seals and whales, the South Georgia bases at Grytviken and Leith Harbour were preferred. What saved Kerguelen was its fishing industry and name of 'The Iceland of The Indian Ocean', for fish-processing became an important local industry. The sealing and whaling industry left its mark in the local inhabitants, half of whom had common Norwegian surnames such as Larsen and Erickson, also in the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and the Calvinist 'Norwegian Church', both in Port Resolution. The little Roman Catholic Chapel of Maria Stella in Molloy was founded by fishermen from Britanny and St Pierre et Miquelon, continuing a French connection, as did Eglise de Sainte Vierge in Porte Douzieme on Ronarc'h. The fish was mostly dried or salted for winter food or as an export to buy grain from Australia and Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania),

The 1860s saw Kerguelen divided by nationality but united against the common foes of cold and hunger, the French Prefect and the British Lieutenant-Governor informally holding monthly meetings to co-ordinate activities such as fishing, trading and medical care. At one stage, the Collective d'Outremer de Kerguelen had a dentist and a surgeon, whilst the Crown Territory of Kerguelen had two doctors and the only boatyard. It was a difficult situation, echoed only by the situation that was to occur later in Svalbard (Spitsbergen), with some Norwegians and a handful of Americans living amongst the French and British settlers.

German interest in Kerguelen only emerged in 1870, when the Franco-Prussian War erupted, the Germans defeating the French after the Siege of Paris. Kerguelen was a mere side-issue, but was offered in hopes that the Germans would annoy the British by being there. The King of Prussia and his Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck nearly avoided this trap, but agreed to take Kerguelen for reasons of their own; they wanted to show that Germany was an advanced scientific state and could be a worthy continental partner to an increasingly-suspicious Britain. The consequences for Kerguelen were that Porte Douzieme was renamed 'Wilhelmstadt' and the very correct Colonel Ludwig Von Beck became Governor, with a small sloop and the supply-ship SMS Polaris bringing supplies from Hamburg via Lisbon, Walvis Bay and Capetown. Oberleutnant zur See Karl Huss was a decent man who was well respected as a seaman and a commander, so was welcomed in Port Resolution as much as in Wilhelmstadt. Beck was by contrast a bit of a martinet, so his replacement after four years by Korvettenkapitan Friedrich Von Kahn was welcomed by all on Kerguelen. Von Kahn was no high flier, but had replaced an Army officer because the Kaiserliche Marine had intent to deploy a squadron to Chinese waters and saw Kerguelen as being important to that and other plans. Not having its own mines of steam-coal, the Wilhelmstadt anchorage had to import coal from Port Elizabeth in Natal to fuel visiting ships, so was considered a supplemental port for ships en route to the Far East.

Wind being a constant problem - and a reason for the tallest plant being Kerguelen's famous wild cabbage - the locals of all nationalities were to use it for powering various small mills for Australian grain, for pumping water, for spinning, weaving and fulling of cloth and the powering of metalworking machinery. The Germans also came up with one of the strangest applications of a windmill ever discovered - the super-cavitation water-heater, that used a perforated impeller to boil water almost instantaneously - all because a centrifugal pump impeller was badly made and heated water. This idea was a fluke, but spread rapidly and gave Kerguelen modern central heating and guaranteed supplies of hot water; what it was also to do, was to make fireless locomotion standard on the narrow-gauge railways used in the Port and in the mines. The Royal Navy went as far as to fit a fireless boiler to a harbour launch, but decided to convert it back to a standard boiler burning lignite; what the fireless boiler engines were perfect for, was working in explosives factories - another task for which Kerguelen had plenty of room available. The lignite could be distilled to provide water, creosote and tars, leaving a high-carbon residue suitable either for grinding up to mix with sulphur and purified nitre for gunpowder, or for replacing steam coal in boiler furnaces. The German powder works used Chilean saltpetre and sulphur, but was only a pilot project and closed down by 1900.

Distance meant that, although the French and Germans grumbled routinely about Kerguelen, it remained a British Crown Territory and formed a codicil in the agreements of the Congress of Vienna; France - equally routinely - hoped the drain on the Crown purse would make Britain abandon the islands. Instead, it became a watering-point, a minor whaling and sealing station, a haven for ships in distress, a cable relay station for the Capetown to Perth telegraph cable, a minor high-security prison (French, then German), a fish-processing factory and the home for four thousand hardy souls. They had overcome problems with plants, animals, storms and isolation, thriving as much as Falkland Islanders and the Hallunders of Heligoland. What was most unusual was that the British Lieutenant-Governor and the Kriegsmarine Kapitan-zur-See formed a highly-unorthodox partnership that kept the peace and encouraged joint support between their settlements, the Lieutenant-Governor being recognised as senior. The Kaiser knew of this arrangement, regarding it as a good diplomatic partnership, but the British Colonial Office considered that Germany was 'muscling in', particularly after the 1890 deals in Africa that were to exchange Heligoland for some nebulous frontiers in Africa. This followed the First Boer War of 1880 with its inconclusive end and the unconnected formation of the German African Cruiser Squadron in 1885.

Perhaps the most disturbing times in Kerguelen during the last decade of the 1800s were connected to the Kaiserliche Marine East Asia Squadron (Ostasiengeschwader), which expanded from two gunboats in 1885 to four larger cruisers in 1896, the ships occasionally watering at Kerguelen and coaling from colliers from Natal. When in 1897 the Chinese killed two German missionaries, the bay and lands of Kiautschou (Tsingtao) were seized to become Germany's Far Eastern base. The East Asia Squadron was to grow by 1900 to two heavy and two light cruisers, whose passage to and from China was to worry the Royal Navy; Kerguelen acquired two destroyers and half a dozen torpedo-boats, serviced and supplied by HMNB Simonstown in South Africa. During the Second Boer War, which finally broke Boer resistance, the Kaiser was careful not to arouse British anger and his warships kept to German possessions, with only a brief visit by the SMS Kaiserin Augusta to Kerguelen on its way to Chinese waters. But, in 1897, the Kaiserliche Marine seized Tsingtao and established its base for China and Pacific operations, to the dismay of Russia, Japan, Britain and - of course - China.

"Just a watering and refuelling base - no coastal batteries -" Lieutenant-Governor William Shane was told by the phlegmatic Fregattenkapitan Alberich Moeller. " - We rely upon you for defence of Kerguelen... No, we don't trust the French and Russians." Shane nodded his understanding. "We have bases at Luderitz, Dar es Salaam and Tsingtao, we coal commercially at Durban and Singapore. My duties are thus mostly for Kerguelenvolk." Moeller was much lower in rank than his predecessors, passed over for promotion, but content enough to be little more than Naval Governor and Harbourmaster.

The Siege of the Legations in Peking briefly improved international relations between the European Great Powers and gave tiny Kerguelen a degree of respectability, but the gradual buildup of the Kaiserliche Marine in the China Sea and the Indian and Pacific Oceans was to worry Shane's successor, Sir Robert Baxter Llewellyn, a competent but not influential administrator who had spent most of his career in the warmer climate of the Caribbean. Llewelyn had agreed to serve out the remainder of his career in sleepy Kerguelen, but he was already 61 in 1906 and his wife Lady Theodora Louisa Llewelyn was herself ageing. They did not expect to be in Kerguelen more than eight years and could then look forwards to an easy retirement in South Wales; unfortunately, they faced a turbulent time.
 
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No more updates for my own Kerguelen thread? I'm glad I could play a part in stimulating your own ideas. It's a very nice start regardless of anything else. Nice and mostly self-contained.

But wouldn't this decent-sized base invite colonisation elsewhere in the South Indian? Especially St. Paul and Amsterdam, which are basically inhabitable by any standards, just remote? Or the Crozet Islands, which makes for a nice Kerguelen substitute with the bonus of extra rain and less sun? Or outside of the region, some of New Zealand's southern islands and Gough Island, the Prince Edward Islands of South Africa, or of course South Georgia proper?
 
Points taken...

...Metalinvader665, thank you. I am an island addict (Heligoland, Lundy Island, Tierra Del Fuego, amongst many). You gave me Kerguelen. You pointed out something else. Great!

Well, here we go again....
 
Into The Great War...

When the Sarajevo Assassinations took place, Europe slid uneasily into a war the Entente had hoped to avoid, to the dismay of everybody in remote Kerguelen. The Germans were well aware that their comfortable neutrality was gone, in which they and the Brits worked together to survive the harsh environment. A few hardy souls from each community had emigrated to Saint-Paul and Amsterdam Islands, but this example of local co-operation was to be halted by the Royal Navy. It had occurred to the Admiralty that the remote anchorage of Saint-Paul was perfect for naval use, like a southern Addu Atoll, as long as its one shallow entrance was dredged and the approaches defended, so the small German group was deported back to Kerguelen, with modest compensation. Kerguelen offered better and more diverse anchorages, but was eleven degrees of latitude further south and off the main shipping-lanes.

Amsterdam Island, slightly further north, was close enough to need a small garrison to keep the Germans and French out - and a radio station to call in support from Kerguelen, Attu or Saint-Paul. In fact, radio was the main reason why Kerguelen took the back seat, for the accessible mountain plateau of Amsterdam Island at 1600 feet high was perfect for long distance transmissions to Australia and South Africa. Kerguelen had higher mountains than Saint-Paul, but none were as conveniently close to a perfect anchorage without possibly-hostile islanders nearby; the Saint-Paul anchorage could shelter up to a squadron of heavy cruisers, so its defences were limited to 5-inch guns and machine guns in pillboxes. Facilities were otherwise restricted to fuel tankage for oil-fuelled ships, a whitewashed stock of coal for coal-fired ships, some shore barracks for the garrison, and a workshop for basic repairs. This was much the same as was offered by Port Resolution, which was restricted to a destroyer squadron and a light cruiser - all rather elderly, used mostly for training Colonial Reservists from Western Australia and South Africa. Saint-Paul naval base was still under construction in early August 1914, lightly defended by a destroyer and five torpedo boats from Kerguelen, the coal stocks being added to by the collier RFA Buresk and the oil-fuel tanks still under construction.

Admiral Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee was in early August 1914 at Pagan Island in the Marianas Islands, trying to decide what was his best strategy for heading back to Germany whilst causing maximum damage to British interests and to the Royal Navy. His Squadron had two armoured cruisers, his flag in Scharnhost and her sister ship Gneisenau, with the light cruisers Nurnberg, Leipzig and Emden, also the converted armed liner and auxiliary cruiser Prinz Eitel Friedrich armed with the guns of two ancient gunboats. The liner carried a Seebataillon of naval Marines, and was accompanied by several freighters and colliers, notably the Markomannia, so in theory Spee could steam all the way to German East Africa, coal there and steam to Germany, or steam to Chile and coal there before heading round Cape Horn to the Atlantic and north through the British blockade to Germany.

Spee was aware from naval intelligence that the three elderly ships of the Fourth Cruiser Squadron an old protected cruiser and some indifferent auxiliaries,were patrolling the Chilean and Argentine coasts from the Falkland Islands base at Port Stanley. At Simonstown were the three cruisers of the Cape Squadron, one of which - HMS Pegasus - was sunk off Zanzibar by the light cruiser SMS Konigsberg based at Dar-es-Salaam. Admiral Patey's four modern cruisers of the Australian Squadron were known to be hunting for German ships in the Pacific, so that and the SMS Konigsberg made up Spee's mind to lead his Squadron from German waters past the Philippines through the neutral Dutch East Indies into the Indian Ocean by way of Lombok Strait. Other than a brief encounter between Emden and the Dutch sloop Tromp, Spee got through unseen, and by 14th September was off Amsterdam Island, the Seebataillon transferring to the cleared smallest collier for an amphibious landing in a cove on the coast of Saint-Paul. The realisation that the base was still under construction gave Spee and his Marine officers the idea of seizing it and any coal stocks; they had to seize the radio station so fast that it had no warning of their approach and could not raise the alarm.

The later Admiralty investigation discovered that the unfortunate base commander (cashiered) had not maintained sufficient alertness in view of the risks from German shipping, but the base was unfinished and only one of the harbour batteries mounted and with ammunition to hand. The lookout had reported a passing tramp steamer and had not been able to see the cove the Kaiserliche Marine force had landed on; more could not be found out, for he and the sentries were killed silently with knives before the Seebataillon silently captured the radio station and codebooks, the operators unable to make a warning because the Marconi transmitter had been turned off overnight. The batteries were seized with only a handful of shots, an AB and Petty Officer being killed and four gunners wounded. At a stroke, the Admiral had seized a defended anchorage, supplies, coal, ammunition and effective control of the Southern Indian Ocean; the handful of ships in the harbour were fish in a barrel for the longer-ranged guns that the cruisers brought to bear, but the destroyer was sunk outside the harbour by the one gun in action, sinking in deep water.
 
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Post #7 is complete...

...It remains to be seen what Spee will make of it and how fast the Royal Navy can respond.

Your comments and suggestions? A big OMG time for the Royal Navy East of Suez.
 
I've always been fascinated by the islands of the Southern Ocean so this really gets my attention! Good writing too. All this military activity does make me sad to think about what will happen to their ecosystems but you've done a good job with the colonization. I hope to hear more about the islanders and what life is like for them.
 
Spee in the Southern Ocean : Part One :

With a base and a stock of water and coal secured, Admiral Spee could plan a series of nasty surprises for the British Empire, to attack its poorly-guarded Indian and African possessions and the trade-routes that wove them together. His first act was to send Emden and Konigsberg north towards the Indian coast as commerce raiders, to sink ships and seize prizes. What helped him was that he had captured current British Naval codebooks and copies of the most-recently-broken German codes, so that he could falsify the daily messages sent to Simonstown and Fremantle to make it seem that there had been no change in ownership of Saint-Paul. The defeated garrison were simply dumped on Amsterdam Island with tents, fishing tackle, some food and medical supplies, by way of isolating them from being a nuisance; not being stupid, Spee warned the garrison that lighting signal bonfires would earn nothing but shelling followed by their being shot, and the German squadron was the closest force to Amsterdam Island. Spee was more interested in controlling Kerguelen, whose radio station was the only other obstacle to his plans; Kerguelen was currently defended only by four elderly torpedo boats, a company of Royal Marines and three elderly twelve-pounder guns.

Lieutenant-Governor Sir Robert Baxter Llewellyn was a civil administrator, not a military man, relying on Lieutenant Eric Walsh of the Royal Marines, who himself was well aware that only the partnership between the German and British colonists kept the peace; the Kerguelen Islands were one of the few places in the world where the war was a remote disturbance. There had been threats to remove and intern the German colonists in Australia, but Llewellyn had opposed this; other than a few hotheads on both sides, life had been quite tranquil. Llewellyn was astonished and horrified when on 22nd September he was woken by his valet and told that there was a German naval officer in the hall.

"...He says they hold the cable station and the radio station, have surrounded the Marine barracks and request that you surrender the Colony of Kerguelen." The valet relayed the message. "I have asked that you have time to dress, Sir."

"Good man!" Llewellyn rubbed his beard. "Any guards round the house?"

"Yes, Sir." The valet had checked. "Surrounded, Sir. Do I bring your shaving-water and a cup of tea, Sir?

"Please, Booth... Get her maid to rouse my wife." Llewellyn was thinking hard. "This is going to be a difficult day."

The German officer was Fregattenkapitan Johannes Haun, commander of the SMS Leipzig, tasked to take the surrender of the British colony of Kerguelen, but he had been feeling very unhappy about it; the long-standing German Governor Alberich Moeller was of equal rank to Haun himself, although passed over, warning him that it was important to treat the British as kindly as they had so far treated the German colonists. Haun had been ordered to disarm the British forces on Kerguelen and could use overwhelming force to do so; he nevertheless decided to take Moeller's advice and got the German Governor to come with him to Government House.

"Herr Oberleutnant!" Haun clicked his heels and came to attention as Llewellyn entered. "I am Fregattenkapitan Johannes Haun and I am ordered to take your surrender and that of all military forces of British Kerguelen. We have landed Seebataillon - that is, Marine soldiers - and seized key points of the Colony. We control the naval base and batteries, so please do not resist. Fregattenkapitan und Oberleutnant Alberich Moeller is ordered to act as Kommandant of the Colony."

"I see..." Sir Robert Llewellyn drew himself up to look as impressive as possible in his uniform as Lieutenant-Governor. "...Alberich, please remember that the Royal Navy will be visiting, shortly... Fregattenkapitan Haun, seizing Kerguelen is a pointless victory. All it will do is to anger the Admiralty and the Colonial Office. However, here is my sword." He unclasped it from his belt. "You will be required by international agreements not to harm either my subordinates or the civilian population. Who is your superior officer?"

"Vizeadmiral Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee, mein Herr." Haun saw no problem in telling Llewellyn that. "I have to inform you that you are under house arrest and a curfew has been imposed. It will be lifted as soon as you can order your men to surrender."

"The Naval Detachment is not under my command." Llewellyn gently advised him. "The Royal Marines have their own commanding officer. Understood?"

"I did tell him." Alberich Moeller agreed. "Lieutenant Eric Walsh is his own officer. But I regret to tell you that the Royal Navy has suffered substantial losses from the local Squadron. The destroyer and most of the torpedo boats have been sunk and loss of life, I am told, was severe." He saw Haun stiffen and shrugged. "What can anybody here do? You control the cable and wireless stations. Lieutenant-Governor Llewellyn is an honest man. I have to work with him."

"H'mm... The East Asia Squadron is commanded by Von Spee." Llewellyn's gaze unsettled Haun. "Cruisers only. If you face a few battleships or battle-cruisers, you're sunk - literally - so my guess is that this is a temporary occupation. Spee will have to move on, or perish."

Robert Llewellyn kept other thoughts to himself; the destroyer at Kerguelen was at Saint-Paul, so either Haun was bluffing, or the incomplete base was in German hands - an horrific matter. That also meant that the cable and wireless stations on Kerguelen were being controlled to prevent a warning being sent to Fremantle, Simonstown or Trincomalee. That implied that the Squadron intended to hide in the Kerguelen area and attack South African and Indian Ocean possessions of the Entente Alliance. Llewellyn knew the Admiralty would be worried about freighters and troop transports on the Indian Ocean trade routes, and the sinking by SMS Konigsberg of HMS Pegasus had triggered reinforcements for the remaining two cruisers at Simonstown, HMS Astraea and HMS Hyacinth, the cruisers HMS Chatham, HMS Dartmouth and HMS Weymouth, under Captain Sidney R. Drury-Lowe, with HMS Minotaur sent south to bring the Cape Squadron under Rear-Admiral Herbert King-Hall back up to strength. Inevitably, Moeller would have told Von Spee all he knew, but Llewellyn reckoned it was merely a matter of time before the Royal Navy arrived with a powerful battle-group and smashed Spee's Squadron.

"You'll be judged on your treatment of the people and garrison of Kerguelen." Llewellyn remarked to Haun. "You have woken up a force that can crush Spee's force like eggshells. Better tell him that."

"I will." The German realised that Llewellyn was content to wait - and to endure the Occupation. "Fregattenkapitan Moeller can keep your sword. You will write a letter I will dictate to you, to encourage the Royal Marine Lieutenant and his men to surrender honourably." Llewellyn shrugged, then did as he was told.

Lieutenant Eric Walsh had been caught off-duty at the Barracks and was forced into a perimeter defence that was ended only when a German officer under a truce-flag came with the letter requesting his surrender, but with the assurance of good treatment for his officers and men. Sir Robert had added a note that he considered Von Spee would honour the terms of surrender, which involved being marooned with others on Amsterdam Island with food and medical supplies. Walsh realised that it was a natural prison camp that needed no guards and he also realised what it meant; the Germans must have taken Saint-Paul's and would watch for signal-fires on Amsterdam Island.

"Lads, we'll have to surrender." He said. "We'll burn the files and all secure papers, then spike those guns we have and fall in for surrender. Mind you get your packs and kitbags - you'll need 'em."

So Kerguelen fell into German hands and that seemed to be it; the German flag flew on flagpoles where once the Union Flag was, Moeller was in the Town Hall, renamed the Kommandantura, whilst two companies of Seebataillon occupied the Marine Barracks and the population had to get used to German officialdom running things. At least it was Moeller in charge, known as an honest man, if somewhat correct and dull; the British settlers knew that the Germans could not hold onto Kerguelen for long, so followed the advice of Llewelyn and prepared fieldstone trenches and bunkers for protection against naval shellfire.
 
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Post #10 is complete...

...Spee controls the area, but the Royal Navy has superior forces in the area.

Can he avoid a kerbstomp?

Thoughts and suggestions?
 
Spee in the Southern Ocean : Part Two :

Seizing Saint-Paul as a base and safeguarding it by seizing Kerguelen had been an unqualified success, and the detachment of SMS Konigsberg and SMS Emden continued this run by raiding British shipping and capturing freighters carrying supplies and fuel. The most frightening things they did were the bombardments of Madras and Penang, the Penang attack sinking the old Russian cruiser Zhemchug and seizing an ammunition ship, the Glen Turret, although most of the munitions were only suitable for British guns. The two light cruisers then laid a trap for HMS Hampshire, Emden luring in the British cruiser with radio transmissions and being 'caught', the Konigsberg masquerading as the Russian cruiser and closing the range before unmasking and pouring a full high-angle broadside and two torpedoes into the unfortunate Hampshire. At the cost of some reparable minor damage, the two light cruisers sank their heavier opponent and took aboard a mere handful of survivors before steaming clear of the area. It was not the kind of engagement the British cruiser had expected, only made possible by the 10.5 cm deck guns firing not at her six-inch armoured belt, but at the two-inch deck armour and torpedoing her bilges. Neither light cruiser had expected to survive - it was guessed that the quick-firing Schnelladekanone had touched off ready-use ammunition on the Hampshire, which had suffered deck explosions and a fire before the torpedoes hit.

"Our luck holds good." Muller admitted to Spee, on his return. "The Royal Navy will try to catch us. Where do we go, next?"

"Either Diego Suarez in Madagascar, or we bombard Simonstown." Spee told him. "Probably Diego Suarez. The heavy cruisers need to finish their bottom-cleaning here at Saint-Paul. The radio intercepts indicate that two British battle-cruisers are heading south and that they think Konigsberg is based in the Rufiji river delta. The loss of the Hampshire is unconfirmed, but her failure to report in has made the British Admiralty move in four more cruisers, two of them Japanese, and Patey's four cruisers have been moved westwards as well. Time is running out, Muller."

Diego Suarez called for a heavy attack, the Leipzig, Nurnberg, Emden and Gneisenau, steaming there to shell the French naval base on 10th December 1914 and sink a few ships, regrettably not the Simonstown cruisers, but sighted HMS Weymouth on their way back and sank her with shellfire on 12th December before she could properly engage them, the SMS Leipzig using her more powerful radio to 'jam' the unfortunate Weymouth. Admiral Spee had mixed feelings about sinking the cruiser east of Madagascar, so laid a false trail by sending Gneisenau and Emden north to Diego Garcia to shell the British base there. His luck still held; the Royal Navy was sure Spee was in the Chagos Archipelago and Patey's force were diverted there to join the two Japanese cruisers trying fruitlessly to intercept the light cruisers.

"We'll have to go, soon." Spee decided. "We'll share out what ammunition we have spare and captured, load up with coal, then head west. If we can sink more naval units on the way, well and good, but if we can do so, we'll either head to Germany or find a neutral port. Probably Brazil, or the United States. Staying here only risks our deaths for little purpose."

Although reluctantly, the Germans did not hesitate to destroy the Kerguelen radio and cable stations to prevent any alarms being raised, disarming even the German settlers in a way that made it clear to Moeller and his men that they were not to be trusted. Saint-Paul base was stripped at least as thoroughly, coal being transferred to warships and colliers, food and medical supplies taken aboard, the guns and ammunition from there and Kerguelen being used to replace worn-out or smaller guns in the Squadron. At the end of this garnisheeing, Saint-Paul was effectively useless, the access channel obstructed by wreckage and every shore structure and the pier demolished. Kerguelen had been left fuel and food, but every modern weapon had been looted, all ammunition and most steam coal taken, the Seebataillon withdrawn and every seagoing boat and ship destroyed.

"There will be no abuse of our fellow-colonists." The Lieutenant-Governor addressed the people. "Alberich Moeller and the German colonists had to do as they were told - or else." There was some sympathy for the Germans after that, but the Occupation had left bitter memories that would be slow to fade, even though the Germans themselves had felt used and let down, abandoned by Von Spee. Unable to communicate to the outside world, all the people on Kerguelen could do, was to wait for the next ship over the horizon, hoping that the Admiralty would start to guess their plight. The prisoners encamped on Amsterdam Island were actually in a better position, but were afraid to light signal-fires because they did not know that Spee's Squadron had left Saint-Paul after methodically destroying it

In fact, the canny Admiral had headed west towards South Georgia, the almost-defenceless island that was the focal point of British and Norwegian whale-catching and processing in the South Atlantic and Antarctic Ocean. Passing well to the south of the Cape of Good Hope, his warships faced a tough battle with the weather, losing one captured collier to the Agulhas Current's hideous waves. Although storm-battered, the Squadron succeeded in arriving undetected in Royal Bay to the southeast of the whaling stations, assisted by one officer who had spent a season on a whaler in the area. South Georgia had no cable station, its wireless stations were limited to commercial ones and the only weapons were sealing-rifles and Svend Foyn harpoon guns on the whalers. In other words, it was a perfect target for interfering with Britain's whaling industry, for whale-based lubricants, bonemeal and glycerine, were important to British munitions and agriculture.

The seizure of South Georgia went ahead with hardly a shot fired, for the Seebataillon marines were trained and operationally tested by their work at Saint-Paul and Kerguelen; they seized the half-dozen whaling stations whilst the Squadron menaced factory ships, whalers and supply ships, within two days controlling South Georgia. The Stipendiary Magistrate, Edward Beveridge Binnie, lived at King Edward Point and was seized with his staff and family within a day; he was a different proposition to the Lieutenant-Governor of Kerguelen, very much at a loss when brought before Von Spee, who told him to return to his home and not to interfere with any German personnel during the demolition of the industrial sites.

"But - these are mostly Norwegian firms, with neutral Norwegian staffs!" Edward Binnie told him.

"They hold licences from Britain and are supplying Britain with whale products." Von Spee had already looked into this. "The managers and their staff have been told that they will be shot if they resist. This is war, Herr Binnie!"

During a week of destruction, the Squadron comprehensively destroyed the works ashore and at sea of the entire South Georgia whaling industry, leaving the workforce only their shore accommodation and food; it was the greatest disaster ever to strike the island, with thousands of tons of whale oil and other material dumped in the sea. Setting fire to the material would have alerted any nearby Royal Navy and other vessel; as it was, the Squadron methodically gathered every single whale catcher, despite courageous attempts by two skippers and their harpoonists to attack SMS Emden at Husvik. Those two ships were riddled with shells and sank with all hands, after two harpoon grenades were fired at the light cruiser; there was minimal damage to the cruiser's paintwork, the incident sadly making Spee think of a farmer attacking a mediaeval knight with a pitchfork. However, the Vice-Admiral did praise the mainly Norwegian crews for their courage, ordering a memorial built from local scrap steel and placed in the Grytviken churchyard with an engraved brass plaque.

"Bravery against impossible odds must always be respected." Von Spee addressed a parade of his men and the whalers. "This is war. When it ends, we must all make peace. I regret the necessity of destruction."
 
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Post #12 Is Complete...

...Next comes the sea-battle you've all been waiting for - but Von Spee has not yet shot his bolt.

Any ideas? Any comments?
 
I wonder, what will the weather in these seas hold for Spee and his pursuers? Also, is he heading for the Falklands? Unlike, OTL, they'll still have enough ammunition to stand a chance, right?

Also, I'm always looking forward to hearing things from the point of view of the island colonists in the southern seas.

Eagerly awaiting the next installment.
 
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"The Price of Admiralty..."

Winston Churchill had been most unhappy about the failure to find and eliminate the one and only blue-water cruiser squadron deployed by the Kaiserliche Marine, so his subordinates and the Sea Lords were as well; it was clear that the Squadron had been operating in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, but exactly where was a headache. Patey had quietly checked the Keeling Islands and the Chagos Archipelago, but had missed each time. The next move had been to check German and neutral ports in East Africa, whilst keeping enough forces to hand to deter an attack on Simonstown and Bombay. Finally, Patey's force searched the Southern Ocean, visiting Saint-Paul and Amsterdam Islands first and recovering the garrisons of Kerguelen and Saint-Paul. The damage and wreckage at Saint-Paul made it clear where Von Spee had been, but the unhappy garrison commander committed suicide despite attempts to stop him, being cashiered despite being dead.The news of Von Spee being loose again made Patey thoroughly search Kerguelen and the Crozet Islands, but without results; he wanted to remove every German from Kerguelen and intern them in Australia or Tasmania, but found the Lieutenant-Governor against it.

"These are our blameless neighbours who Spee used as his tools." Sir Robert Llewelyn told Patey. "None of us had any warning that Spee was in this area. Why were we not informed?" That the Admiral was not privy to, although he could see Llewelyn was furious; the Colonial Office was going to receive some stinging messages. Alberich Moeller told Patey what little he knew - of the attacks on Penang and Diego Suarez, of plans to attack Simonstown and Walvis Bay - but this intelligence was too little to act upon, except that the Admiralty sent Doveton Sturdee and his two battle-cruisers east from the Falklands to the Cape of Good Hope, an act that was to fatally weaken Cradock's force. Sturdee had the foresight to send a cruiser from Simonstown to check South Georgia, but the week-old intelligence of Spee's work there was too little and far too late.
*
Admiral Christopher Cradock has gone down in history as a valiant but unfortunate man over-ridden by the impetuous Sturdee; to his recorded objections, Sturdee had insisted on reinforcing Cradock's base at Port Stanley by grounding the old pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Canopus as additional harbour defence. Sturdee had done this because the armoured cruiser HMS Defence was due to arrive from the western Atlantic and would massively augment the rather elderly cruisers of Cradock's 4th Cruiser Squadron, so Cradock sent three cruisers (HMS Cornwall, HMS Carnarvon, HMS Bristol) north to guard the meat and grain ships from the River Plate and kept the rest of his squadron blocking the Drake Passage round Cape Horn to keep nitrate supplies flowing from Chile to Britain. The four 12-inch and twelve 6-inch guns on Canopus in theory could sink all of Spee's force, but the sixteen 21-cm guns of SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau could penetrate her 6-inch armour belt, so by being aground, Canopus lost a major advantage. Cradock compounded this error by coaling his weakened Squadron in Port William Harbour, an operation that relied too heavily upon the Canopus and the few 4-inch guns of the Port Stanley defensive batteries.

When SMS Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, followed by the lesser vessels, sighted old Canopus beached outside Port Stanley harbour on 16th January, they had sufficient information from the captured Royal Navy codes to recognise her and opened fire at long range. Her reply was four ineffective shots that merely splashed the two armoured cruisers, which closed the range, firing fast and accurately; one shell from 'Can Opener' hit a casement on Gneisenau, but did no other serious damage, but the poor old pre-dreadnought and her ill-trained crew of reservists was unable to dodge and was badly damaged by forty of the nearly sixty shells fired into her. Armour belt pierced repeatedly, HMS Canopus was left on fire and her forward magazine exploded, shattering the ship and killing her entire crew. By then, the rest of the East Asia Squadron had closed on Port William and were pounding the hapless command of Cradock, who was killed on the bridge of the HMS Good Hope by a shell from SMS Leipzig. HMS Glasgow under Captain Peter Luce had finished coaling and was trying to reach the open sea when SMS Scharnhorst sank her in the entrance to Port Stanley Harbour, where her wreck blocked in the remaining vessels of the Squadron. As Von Spee admitted, the British ships were unable to manoeuvre and effectively just targets for his ships; by the time he ordered a ceasefire, all ships in the harbour had been sunk and the cable and Marconi Wireless Stations were destroyed by shellfire. The Seebataillon marines landed in York Bay had reached the town and seized the emplacements of the 4-inch harbour guns, the garrison and Governor being forced to surrender, unable to resist, whilst the townsfolk had the indignity of seeing their local naval squadron destroyed.

As the wreck of the Glasgow made it difficult for the Ostasiengeschwader to enter Port Stanley, they had to anchor in Port William Harbour outside, Spee going ashore to look over his latest temporary conquest. As he told the Governor, there was no dishonour in surrendering to a far superior force, seeing that he had already taken South Georgia, Kerguelen and Saint-Paul naval base. The Governor was shocked; he pointed out that a few battleships could make short work of the Ostasiengeschwader, but Von Spee accurately pointed out that first he had to be found. He looted the naval stores from Port Stanley, using local lighters to transfer coal from old HMS Warrior in Port Stanley Harbour, then ordered other steam coal stored ashore to be part distributed amongst the townsfolk, burning the remainder next dawn as his ships sailed north with full bunkers and water replenished. It seemed as if speed and audacity might yet bring his Squadron home to Germany.

The three light cruisers guarding the River Plate estuary were sighted by the Squadron five days later, Rear Admiral Stoddart having the gumption to send an armed merchant cruiser with them inshore to notify the Admiralty by cable. There had already been suspicion that Spee was raiding and then running, the messages from Kerguelen, South Georgia and then Buenos Aires, being enough to let Churchill and Fisher work out what was going on. Port Stanley having failed to reply to routine cable traffic, the Admiralty could only fear the worst; Stoddart and his men were fighting for their lives even as orders went forth to concentrate forces in the Midatlantic and South Atlantic. Fisher loathed Sturdee, so his failure to intercept Spee off the Cape of Good Hope invited censure, if not yet a court-martial.

Stoddart only had HMS Cornwall, HMS Carnarvon and HMS Bristol, a willing foe and sea room, so his command were massacred in a short half hour by the Ostasiengeschwader, the ships sunk and the crews killed by shellfire and drowning. At the same time, the attack reduced the ammunition aboard the German ships to almost half its capacity, SMS Leipzig, Emden and Konigsberg having guns knocked out and a few casualties. The bigger cruisers had hung back as it was thought that HMS Defence was on its way, but the battle ended with the recovery of survivors by the auxiliary cruiser SMS Prinz Friedrich Eitel and the progress north past Brazil of the Ostasiengeschwader.

"If we can't reach Germany, it's internment in a neutral port." Von Spee told his commanders. "From radio traffic, we may be able to plot a course round the forces hunting us. So - here we go!"

Spee was cynical about the ability of his own Admiralty to keep secret the capture of the current Royal Navy codes, so he intended to drop off a copy with the German Consulate in Recife, for despatch via Diplomatic Bag, before his final attempt to break through the blockade that was slowly strangling the Central Powers. This cynicism was also carefully based on another matter; the seized code books had been inside a fireproof safe that was under the rubble of Saint-Paul radio station, apparently unopened, the radio operators being dead in the initial assault. The result was that Patey reported that the code books had not been found in their place of concealment, the Admiralty unaware of the former cracksman from Hamburg who had used his former craft to open the safe without damage to it or its contents. It was the kind of careful planning by Spee that accounted for his successes and apparent 'luck'; he would use any trick in the book (and many out of it) to keep his men and ships safe.
 
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Post #18 is complete...

... Cradock has little luck and Stoddart's has just run out. Sturdee is in Simonstown, Patey is at Kerguelen and Saint Paul's, keeping that bolthole blocked. The Admiralty are suspicious and closing in.

What will happen to Spee? I haven't decided just yet. Your thoughts, please...

... After the next post with Admiral Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee, it's back to Kerguelen.
 

Driftless

Donor
To twist the words of Baroness Orczy

“They seek him here, they seek him there
Those Limey's seek him everywhere
Is he in heaven or is he in hell?
That demned elusive Boche Admirael”
 
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